MELHS senior was 3-year starter for volleyball team
Published 3:15 pm, Monday, April 10, 2017
Metro-East Lutheran senior Lydia Flaherty won’t have to travel far to continue her volleyball career.
Flaherty, a three-year starter for MELHS, announced on Wednesday that she will play next season at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey. She has been the full-time setter for the Knights for the past two seasons.
“I started going to open gyms at Lewis and Clark about two months ago and I really enjoyed the team and I felt comfortable,” Flaherty said. “I know they have a great nursing program, which is what I’m going to be majoring in. I also wanted a school with a good volleyball team, so I feel like I have the best of both worlds.”
Flaherty also considered Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., and Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn.
“They just didn’t offer everything I wanted, plus I’m close to home here,” said Flaherty, who will live at home while attending Lewis and Clark.
Lewis and Clark, which competes in NJCAA Division II, had a solid season in 2016 under new coach Johnna Kinney, a former head coach at St. Louis Community College.
The Trailblazers were 26-9, losing in the district final to Parkland College, which went on to win the national title. Another of Lewis and Clark’s opponents in Region 24 was Lincoln Land College, which also advanced to nationals and was the runner-up.
Finding a setter was one of Kinney’s top priorities for next season and Flaherty was her primary recruiting target at the position.
“I had not recruited in Illinois before, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the talent level,” Kinney said. “Lydia has been doing a real good job at our open gyms working with the hitters and running some quick sets so we can get her used to doing that. She came in and is really getting along well with the other girls and has a good court presence.”
Last fall, Flaherty had a team-high 565 assists for MELHS, which had a 12-22-1 record and lost to Clay City in the semifinals of the Class 1A Lebanon Sectional. She was second on the team in service points with 147 and third in digs with 302.
Flaherty has five of the top 10 single-match assist totals in program history, including a school-record 39. She holds two of the top six single-season marks for assists and serve percentage.
She ranks third in career assists with 1,391 and third in career serve percentage at 96.9 percent.
Flaherty also helped Metro win regional championships in 2015 and 2016.
“She has certainly been one of the more accomplished volleyball players we’ve had in our school’s history,” Metro coach Jon Giordano said. “She’s always been a good athlete and that’s helped her, but she’s always worked super hard at everything in practice. She has a great feel for getting the ball to whoever is hitting well in matches.
“What I was most proud of is how much of a leader she became in the course of her time here. She really stepped up, especially this year, to take charge of the team, never in an abrasive way but always in an encouraging way.”
Flaherty has occasionally played other positions during her volleyball career, but setter has always been her No. 1 position. She began playing volleyball as a third-grader at Faith Lutheran School in Godfrey.
Once Flaherty got to MELHS, it didn’t take long for her to become a fixture in the Knights’ lineup.
“What I’ll remember most of all is probably being on a great team. It was an awesome experience being able to play here and play for God and then play with my girls too,” Flaherty said.
With Metro employing a 5-1 offense (which uses one setter) for the past two seasons, Flaherty feels that made her a better player.
“Being the full-time setter, you have a lot more responsibility,” Flaherty said.
By attending a junior college, Flaherty will have a better chance to play right away, and that was another factor in her decision to choose Lewis and Clark.
“I just want to play and I love the game, so it’s a perfect fit,” Flaherty said. “It’s a good transition and I’m really excited about it.”
Flaherty also competed in track and field during her freshman and junior years, qualifying for the Class 1A state meet in the high jump in 2016. She was also in the 400-meter run, the 100-meter dash and the 1,600-meter relay.